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Education unions set out concerns to Gavin Williamson after exam results fiasco

18 August 2020

The government must step in to support students who have missed out on their first-choice courses and provide financial protections for the higher education sector to protect jobs, UCU and NUS said today.

UCU and NUS have written to Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson today to set out the concerns of students and staff in schools, further education colleges and universities, following the government's dramatic U-turn yesterday confirming that centre-assessed grades would be used for A-levels and GCSEs.

After the original grading system led to widespread unfairness, the unions have urged the government to extend the use of centre-assessed grades to BTECs and other affected qualifications, and to share details of the equality impact assessment that was conducted as part of the original approach to grading. 

They also raised concerns about the removal of the student number cap for universities, and called on the government to provide financial support to the sector so that universities are able to safely welcome students next term and continue to provide world class teaching and research.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'Staff are now facing unbearable workloads dealing with the government's exam results fiasco, after already facing cuts and threats of redundancies due to its incompetence during lockdown. Removing the student number cap means certain universities can hoover up students hitting the finances of other institutions. It now needs to provide substantial financial support to the sector so that universities can protect all jobs, safely welcome students and continue to provide world class teaching and research.'

NUS president Larissa Kennedy said: 'Yesterday's U-turn will not redress the harm that is done to students every year in every postcode by this racist, classist and ableist assessment system. The government must commit to overhaul the exam and grading system for good so that every student has a fair chance to succeed.

'There are still many questions to be answered around how university admissions will work this year and how BTEC students and private candidates will be assessed. But this week has highlighted the power that staff and students have when we come together. We will continue to fight for #JusticeForEducation and an end to educational injustice once and for all.'

Jo Grady and Larissa Kennedy have offered to meet with Mr Williamson so he can hear first-hand how the fiasco had affected students and staff.

Last updated: 18 August 2020